April 2020

President's Column

While we are focused on the pressing and important issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic now, we must also begin to look toward the future and how health care must change to thrive in a new reality and with a new delivery model.

WCHQ is actively providing tools, information and support to ensure our members’ success. We recently provided member health systems with reports on their risk populations. The WCHQ staff is also actively facilitating rapid-cycle learning among health care systems to learn and adopt best practices in this ever-evolving environment.

WCHQ is already moving to support health care providers in what will unarguably be a new model for providing care. We are currently working to:

  • Capture virtual encounters, even those done without a charge, in our clinical quality repository.
  • Design comprehensive and clinically appropriate processes to document home monitoring for chronic conditions (i.e. home blood pressures).
  • Educate members by sharing best practices on how to effectively deliver care virtually both now and long-term.
  • Evaluate the impact of the mass cancellation of preventive and routine care on health outcomes and quality results.

Going forward, WCHQ is developing an ad hoc advisory group to identify and address the most pressing needs for health care providers as we move through and beyond the pandemic. There is much more to come. WCHQ is dedicated to ensuring that health and health care value in Wisconsin remains among the best in the nation.

- Chris Queram

WCHQ, HIP Reports Help Health Systems Respond to COVID-19

With the onset of COVID-19, the Health Innovation Program (HIP), in partnership with WCHQ, rapidly produced reports with reliable and accurate data for WCHQ members. HIP utilized the WCHQ data to create zip-code level estimates of the proportion of individuals at risk for severe COVID-19 complications. The reports also include an estimate for the number of individuals with each of the CDC risk factors for severe complications from COVID-19 that could be reliably identified in the WCHQ data.

Requests for the reports started within hours after the information was publicly available. Requests can be made here: reports@hip.wisc.edu

“WCHQ data is a valuable resource of information to manage population health,” according to Matt Gigot, WCHQ Director of Performance Measurement and Analysis. “Now that same data is being used as a powerful tool in helping to predict where resources will be needed in our communities to fight COVID-19.”

In collaboration with several other UW partner institutions (Population Health Institute, Collaborative Center for Health Equity), the zip code data is now available via a publicly available interactive map. Below is the link to the website where more information about the maps, and the maps themselves can be found: https://nhp.wisc.edu/.

News: While COVID-19 Paused Preventive Visits; Wisconsin Health Care Community Urges Patients to Connect with Physicians

In a news release sent to members and select members of the media April 29, WCHQ encouraged people to reconnect with their physicians now in advance of the clinics opening to in-person visits.

Wisconsin has some of the highest quality health care in the country; however, with routine care significantly disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, providers are increasingly concerned that patients are falling behind in important preventive health and chronic disease care.

The Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality (WCHQ) collects data on clinical performance across more than 40 quality measures for nearly every health system and medical clinic in the state. With COVID-19 shutting down all but emergency care, WCHQ is expecting to see dips in clinical performance on some key preventive metrics that their members have performed very well on in the past.

“Infants and younger patients may have fallen behind on immunizations and well-child visits,” according to WCHQ President/CEO Chris Queram. “Other patients may need to catch up on routine blood tests and check-ups that are essential to monitoring chronic conditions and to complete routine prevention tests, such as cancer screenings, that cannot be done virtually.”

Statewide, in-person clinic visits have been halted and patients have been extremely understanding during this time. WCHQ members are actively reaching out to care for patients via telehealth. However, not all care can be delivered virtually, and providers are actively developing plans to safely and quickly resume necessary care.
Patients are urged to contact their primary care providers to develop a plan for needed care and schedule either virtual or in-person visits. The concern about patients entering the clinic environment is understandable. That is why clinicians are carefully planning how clinics will be reopened.

“We know that clinics across Wisconsin will take every precaution to ensure the safety of their patients and care teams as they begin to see people in the clinics,” Queram said. “The safety of patients, clinicians and our communities is everyone’s top priority.”

Member Resource: Key Considerations for Off-Site COVID-19 Testing

WCHQ members considering off-site test for COVID-19 will find a new Infographic created by the  Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement and Qualidigm helpful in identifying issues to consider when planning or implementing COVID-19 off-site testing.  A research team interviewed individuals who are on the front lines planning and delivering on-site testing. WCHQ staff served on NHRI’s advisory team to this project. The full report of this study is expected to be available in May 2020.

WCHQ Oral Health Collaborative Fosters Networking, Support for Dental Community

Since the COVID-19 quarantine, dental and health care providers have experienced unprecedented disruption to their respective practices. The WCHQ Oral Health Collaborative members have been meeting bi-weekly to offer networking and to share information on a range of issues as dental health, both urgent and routine, has been halted.

Over the past month, WCHQ has partnered with the Wisconsin Dental Association to connect dental health professionals with education and information related to COVID-19. On April 15, WCHQ and WDA co-sponsored a webinar on COVID 19 that featured State Dental Director Russell Dunkel, DDS and Department of Health CMO Steve Tyska, MD. More than 700 dental professionals participated in a webinar with two key members of the COVID-19 Wisconsin Department of Health response team. The webinar was posted here.

For information on the WCHQ Oral Health Collaborative, contact Jen Koberstein.

GSK, WCHQ Partner to Help Improve Care for Patients with Diabetes

Quality measures will help inform the integration of medical and dental care

GSK Consumer Healthcare and WCHQ announced on April 30 a new partnership aimed at increasing collaboration between oral and medical health providers that will lead to improvements in how patients who have diabetes are managed across dental and medical clinics.

Diabetes and periodontal disease frequently occur together. Communication between dental and medical professionals is necessary to successfully manage patients with diabetes.
GSK Consumer Healthcare, a leader in promoting good oral care, is working with WCHQ, a clinical measurement and performance improvement organization, to develop cross-cutting quality measures that will provide data to inform more closely aligning care processes across both settings.

A person’s overall health can be adversely impacted by poor oral health conditions, particularly gum diseases. The new partnership between GSK Consumer Healthcare and WCHQ will create opportunities for dentists and physicians to collaborate and create cross-cutting metrics that will help inform their efforts to ensure that patients at risk for diabetic complications receive both oral and medical care.

“Our partnership with WCHQ presents a unique opportunity to accelerate the integration of dental and medical care to move us closer to the goal of providing whole-person care in clinical settings,” according to Elizabeth Brewer, GSK Consumer Healthcare, regional lead government affairs Americas.

WCHQ President/CEO Christopher Queram commented, “We could not be more pleased to partner with GSK Consumer Healthcare in helping WCHQ create the tools necessary to bring oral and medical professionals together to provide better care management for the more than 400,000 people in Wisconsin who have diabetes. We are confident that the results of our collaboration will underscore the critical link between good oral health and physical well-being.”